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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Social Movements

Social Movements


Reform Movements
  1. Arya Samaj
   Main principals of Arya Samaj
  2. Satya Sodhak Samaj
    Main Principles of Satya Sodhak Samaj
  3. Ram Krishna Mission
   Main principles of Shri Rama Krishna Paramahansa
  4. Sri Narayanguru Dharma Paripalana Sabha
Peasant Movements
Backward Castes Movement
  1. Self -respect Movement
  2. Backward caste mobilization in North India
  1. Mahar Movement


Arya Samaj


The Arya Samaj is a reform movement and religious/social organization which was formally established in Bombay in 1875 by Swami Dayananda Saraswathi (1824-1883). He was an adamant follower, exponent, and practitioner of the Vedas--the unadulterated Truth as handed down from Guru to disciple since the beginning of time. Swami Dayananda had absolutely no craving for worldly applause and was completely unconcerned and unperturbed by the censure of the superstitious, the ignorant, and the selfish. Swami Dayanada spoke the Truth and practiced it too. In 1863 he emerged preaching against idolatry and started Sanskrit classes.

In 1872 he came into cantact with Keshub Chandra Sen, a Brahmo reformer and other Brahmo leaders.It exerted a radical change in him which led him to turn from Sanskrit to the popular language Hindi for spreading his ideals. In 1875 he went to Bombay for preaching his ideals and there he enjoyed a warm support at the hands of great social reformer Mahadev Govind Ranah in the campaign against idolatry and other evil practices. In the same year he founded Arya Samaj in Bombay.


Two years later in 1877 he shifted the head quarters of the samaj to Lahore and carried on his activities. The word Arya means a noble human being--one who is thoughtful and charitable, who thinks good thoughts and does good actions--he or she is an Arya. The universal Arya Samaj (Vishwa Arya Samaj) is a gathering of such people.

Swami Dayanada founded Arya Samaj on two basic tenets. They were

  • Infallible authority of the Vedas
  • Monotheism.

He has explained these two principles in his book Satyartha Prakash that he published in 1874 from Allahabad.He held the Vedas only as the infallible authority of Hinduism. He believed that four Vedas are words of God. They are absolutely free from error and or an authority into themselves. They do not stand in need of any other book to uphold their authority. They comprise what is known as the Samhita.However he cautioned that they might be held authoritative only in so far as they conform to the teachings of the Vedas. If there is any passage in these works opposed to Vedic injunctions it can entirely be rejected.

He held Brahman as the most higher or paramatman the supreme spirit who permeates the whole universe; who is personification of sat-chit-ananda who is omniscient, formless, all pervading, unborn, infinite almighty who creates, sustains and dissolves the universe and who awards all souls the fruit of their deeds in accordance with the requirements of absolute justice. One can attain salvation through the worship of God.

There are three elements -stuti,prarthna and upasana stuti or glorification consists in praising the attributes and powers of God with a view in fixing them in our minds and cultivating love towards God.Prarthana is praying to God for the gift of the highest knowledge and other blessings.Upasana or communion consists in conforming to the Divine spirit in purity and holiness and in feeling the presence of the Deity in our heart through the practice of Yoga which enables us to have direct cognition of God. He believed that revitalization of the Hindu religion and society could be achieved by purifying the religion and uniting Hindu society. He believed that the purification of religion could be achieved by purging the religion of its impurities like polytheism and idolatry. So he attacked these two things and advocated a monotheism worship of the formless Brahman.

For uniting the Hindus and strengthening the society Swami Dayananda also started three movements -shuddi, sanghatan and education and geared the Arya Samaj to carry on these movements unceasingly. Shuddi is a ceremony by which the Non-Hindus the fallen, the outcastes, the converts and the externals were taken into the Hindu fold. By this ceremony the Arya Samaj not only invested the depressed classes and untouchables with the sacred thread and gave them equal status with other Hindus but also reclaimed many Hindus who were formerly converted to Islam and Christianity. The word sanghatan means union. Therefore it implies in the programme of the Arya Samaj the organization of Hindus for self-defence.

The Arya Samaj declared that no Hindu should take lying down the insults hurled against his religion by the preachers of other religion. The Hindu should cultivate a militant spirit and should take up the challenge. The Arya samaj embarked upon the programme of national education for the Hindus. Swami Dayananda emphasized the need for a national education throughout his career. In every place he visited he pleaded for the establishment of Sanskrit schools and the teaching of Vedas.

Swami Dayananda desired that Hindu society emerges as a moral society. So he preached that the Hindu should observe dharma in their life. Dharma is a practice of equitable justice together with that of truthfulness in word, deed and thought and like virtues as embodied in the Vedas. He believed in the doctrines of Karma and rebirth; stressed the old ideals of brahmacharya and sanyasa insisted on the efficacy of samskars and rite of upanayana and homa upheld the sanctity of the cow, condemned animal sacrifices, ancestor worship, pilgrimages, priest-craft, untouchability and child marriage as lacking Vedic sanction. After his death the leaders of the Arya Samaj accepted his sayings and teachings as the doctrines of Samaj and tried to spread the activities of the samaj all over the country.

Main principals of Arya Samaj

Main principals of Arya Samaj


1. God is the original source of all true knowledge and all that is known by the physical sciences.
2. God is existen, intelligant and blissful. He is formless, almighty,just,merciful,unborn and endless,unchangeable, incomparable, the support and master of all. He is ominpresent and and the maker of the universe. He alone is worthy of worship.
3. The Vedas are the scriptures of all true knowledge. It is the duty of all Aryas to read them, hear them being read and teach them to others.
4. One should always be ready to accept truth and give up untruth.
5. All acts should be performed in accordance with Dharma, after deliberating what is right and wrong.

6. The primary object of Arya Samaj is to do good to the world by promoting physical, spiritual and social good of everyone.
7. Our conduct towards all should be guided by love ,righteousness and justice.
8. We should dispel ignornace and promote knowledge.
9. One should see one's own greatest welfare as residing in the welfare of others.
10. One should regard oneself under restriction to follow the rules of society calculated to promote the well being of all, while one should be free in matters of individual welfare.

Satya Sodhak Samaj


In Poona, Jyotirao Phooley, though a Mali by caste and of comparatively little education started the association called the Satyashodhak Samaj in 1873 for asserting the worth of man irrespective of caste. He demanded representation of all classes of the Hindus in all the local bodies, in services and institutions and also established a primary school for the so-called untouchables in Poona.


Tracing the evolution of the NonBrahmin movement in Western India from 1873 to 1930 the Satya Sodhak Samaj has been described by Gail Omvedt as a cultural revolt in a colonial society. But there is a clear distinction between Satyasodhak movement, which was essentially a socio-religious movement, and the non-Brahmin movement, which was predominantly a political movement.



Main principals of Satya Sodhak Samaj


Satya Sodhak Samaj put a ban on discussion of political questions. Any Sudra was free to join the Satya sodhak samaj as member but people belonging to the upper castes were either listed as friends of samaj or admitted as members after sometime only when other members of the Samaj were convinced about their outlook and actions. The sathya sodhak movement attacked the Brahmin priests who insisted on acting as intermediaries between God and devotees. They believed that there was no need for any intermediary in matters of religion and refused to recognize the traditional role of the Brahmins as custodians of Hindu religion or interpreters of scriptures.


They also opposed the stranglehold of the bureaucracy dominated by the Brahmins in their times. Phule often complained that the Brahmin bureaucrats were responsible for misleading the white rulers and hence they should be replaced by non-Brahmins who would be better informed about and more sympathetic to the peasants in rural areas.

They totally rejected the Vedic tradition and the Aryan heritage. He regarded the Aryans as conquerors and destroyers of the indigenous non-Aryan culture. He launched a vigorous attack on the Vedas. He made fun of the puranas and ridiculed those who believed in the absurd stories narrated by their Brahmin authors.

The Satya Sodhak movement continued to emphasize the role of education in facilitating social change. Phule campaigned against the increasing habit of drinking liquor and urged the Poona Municipal Council not to permit the opening of liquor shops. He tried to persuade people to give up drinking and spend their money on buying books. The Satya Shodhak movement in 19th century was essentially a socio-religious reform movement that was transformed by Shahu Chhatrapati into a powerful Non-Brahmin movement, which sought to bring a change into a power structure.


Ram Krishna Mission


Shri Rama Krishna Paramahansa is a unique figure in the history of Hinduism. He advocated the entire orbit of Hinduism and not simply by a segment of it such as Theism or Vedism.He viewed God to be both personal and impersonal. He laid equal emphasis on both the householder's life of good works and the sanyasi's life of renunciation and yoga like a true Hindu, he gave free scope to the individual variations in the kingdom of spirit.

And again like a true Hindu he held that all religions were branches of the same tree. He demonstrated this truth in his own life by going through the sadhanas of Islam and Christianity as well as Hinduism. Without much education and scholarship, he understood and exposed the truths of Hindu scriptures. He traveled the entire region experience by his own tapas and confirmed by his own personal testimony the truths of Hindu scriptures. His practice of spiritual realizations of different creeds led him to discover certain basic truths.


Main principals of Rama Krishna Paramahansa


1. Realization of God is the essence of religion and the end and aim of human existence. All religious works, discussion discourse and sermons will automatically stop when realizations end. 2. To a man who has realized God all religions are paths that lead to the same goal. The substance is one only the names are different. He who is called Krishna in Vaishnavisms is called Shiva in Saivism, Adyashadti in Shakta, Jesus in Christianity and Allah in Islam.
3. The realization of God can be attained through gnana and bhakti. The latter is to be preferred. The former namely the path of knowledge is difficult because one has to acquire a high degree of purity and self-control before one can tread that path whereas the latter namely the path of devotion is easy because purity and self-control come of their own accord when once a man begins to love God.
4. Love of God should take precedence not only to knowledge but also of good works. Social service is no-doubt necessary and good but it should be a part of divine service.
5. Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansas religion is a practical one. It is not concerned with the metaphysical subtitles philosophical discussions and interpretations of spiritual messages. It is concerned only with the realization of God through spiritual experience. That is why he did not condemn idol-worship. He regarded it as a mean to an end in itself.

Main principals of Rama Krishna Paramahansa


1. Realization of God is the essence of religion and the end and aim of human existence. All religious works, discussion discourse and sermons will automatically stop when realizations end. 2. To a man who has realized God all religions are paths that lead to the same goal. The substance is one only the names are different. He who is called Krishna in Vaishnavisms is called Shiva in Saivism, Adyashadti in Shakta, Jesus in Christianity and Allah in Islam.
3. The realization of God can be attained through gnana and bhakti. The latter is to be preferred. The former namely the path of knowledge is difficult because one has to acquire a high degree of purity and self-control before one can tread that path whereas the latter namely the path of devotion is easy because purity and self-control come of their own accord when once a man begins to love God.
4. Love of God should take precedence not only to knowledge but also of good works. Social service is no-doubt necessary and good but it should be a part of divine service.
5. Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansas religion is a practical one. It is not concerned with the metaphysical subtitles philosophical discussions and interpretations of spiritual messages. It is concerned only with the realization of God through spiritual experience. That is why he did not condemn idol-worship. He regarded it as a mean to an end in itself.

Ram Krishna Mission


Shri Rama Krishna Paramahansa is a unique figure in the history of Hinduism. He advocated the entire orbit of Hinduism and not simply by a segment of it such as Theism or Vedism.He viewed God to be both personal and impersonal. He laid equal emphasis on both the householder's life of good works and the sanyasi's life of renunciation and yoga like a true Hindu, he gave free scope to the individual variations in the kingdom of spirit.

And again like a true Hindu he held that all religions were branches of the same tree. He demonstrated this truth in his own life by going through the sadhanas of Islam and Christianity as well as Hinduism. Without much education and scholarship, he understood and exposed the truths of Hindu scriptures. He traveled the entire region experience by his own tapas and confirmed by his own personal testimony the truths of Hindu scriptures. His practice of spiritual realizations of different creeds led him to discover certain basic truths.



Sri Narayanguru Dharma Paripalana Sabha


From 1812 until almost the close of the century, though political life was characterized by inactivity and society presented an outward calmness, subversive forces were forming and developing. This current of social transformation gradually led Kerala into the mainstream of political struggle for freedom and responsible government in the 20th century. The important outcome of this ferment was the awakening of the masses especially the lower orders in the Hindu society, against social injustice and evils. This awakening found articulation in Kerala towards the last quarter of the 19th century.


In the princely states of Kochi and Travancore, the hold of the caste system was even more suffocating. Until the 20th century, governmental positions were denied to lower castes and non-Hindus. It was a protest movement that originated among the scheduled castes. The SNDP movement originated among the Izhavas (todday-tappers) of Kerala in the late nineteenth century. Izhavas were regarded as unapproachable in the traditional caste hierarchy. For instance, they had to stay way thirty-four feet from the Nambudiri Brahmins. They suffered from many disabilities, both civic and ritual: they were not allowed to worship in the temples of caste Hindus or to bathe in the tanks of caste Hindus. Toddy-tapping was considered to be a defiling occupation, their women were to required to cover their breasts and they could neither wear any footwear not build pukka houses.

Shri Narayana Guru, the great Hindu saint and social reformer spearheaded one of the most important social reform movements. The Guru was born in 1856 in the Ezhava community, which had a status far below that of the Nambudiris. He fearlessly criticized and campaigned against the rigors of the caste system, the Brahmin hegemony and the numerous social disabilities of the Ezhavas and other lower castes. Soon Shri Narayana Guru became the rallying point for the Ezhavas and Thiyyas to unite and organize.

The Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), literally the society for the propagation of moral teaching of Shri Narayana came into being 15th May 1903. Within a short period, the Guru and Yogam drew towards them a brilliant band of dedicated workers, including the poet Kumaran Asan, whose efforts constitute an eloquent testimony to what a community, submitted to centuries of tyranny, can do and achieve through unity, realism and organism.Shri Narayana was, however, no sectarian philosopher and leader. A programme of action founded upon such sublime humanism and social purpose was not destined to remain confined to one caste only; it soon became the philosophy of Hindu reformation, encompassing all castes, including the Brahmin.

The Shri Narayana Movement had developed as a reformative and reaffirmative movement within the Hindu religion. The temple that Sree Narayana Gure consecrated to Lord Siva, the Mirror consecration at Kalavancode and the like were against the Hindu upper class domination. Yet this move did not spread among the Dalits. In effect, it was an attempt to reform the caste and the religion. He was responsible for a thorough transformation on the style of life involving new religious beliefs, ritual and outlook. He provided and ideology or withdrawal and self-organization that raised the self-respect, honor and worth of individuals. It was an ideology of protest against the Brahmincal value system of hierarchy and pollution. Swamy established a parallel source of legitimacy with his institutions of temples, priests, monks and monasteries.

Peasant Movements


Colonial economic policies, the new land revenue system, the colonial administrative and judicial system and the ruin of handicrafts leading to the overcrowding of land ,transformed the agrarian structure and impoverished the peasantary.In the vast zamindari areas the peasants were left to the mercies of the zamindar who rack-rented them and compelled them to pay illegal dues and perform beggar. In the ryotwari areas, the government itself levied heavy land revenue. This forced the peasants to borrow money from the moneylenders. Gradually over large areas the actual cultivators were reduced to the status of tenants at will, share croppers and landless labourers while their lands, crops and cattle passed into the hands to landlords, trader moneylenders and such peasants. When the peasants could take it no longer they resisted against the oppression and exploitation and they found whether their target was the indigenous exploiter or the colonial administration that their real enemies after the barriers were down was the colonial state.


In 1930s nation wide awakening of peasants was largely the result of the combination of particular economic and political developments.

  • The great depression that began to hit India from 1920-30 and
  • The new phase of mass struggle launched by the Indian National Congress in 1930.

The depression brought agricultural prices crashing down to half of less of their normal levels dealt a severe blow to the already impoverished peasants burdened with high taxes and rents. Therefore the peasants were placed in a situation where they had to continue to pay taxes, rents and debts at pre-depression rates while their incomes continued to spiral steadily downward. The civil disobedience movement was launched in this atmosphere of discontent in 1930s and in many parts of the country it soon took on the form of no-tax and no-rent campaign. Peasants emboldened by the recent success of the Bardoli Satyagraha (1928) joined the protest in large numbers. In Bihar and Bengal powerful movements were launched against the hated chowkidar tax by which villages were made to pay for the upkeep of their own oppressors.

In Punjab a no-revenue campaign was accompanied by the emergence of Kisan Sabhas that demanded a reduction in land revenue and water rates and the scaling down of debts. The consolidation of left after the formation of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 acted as a spur to the formation of an all India body to coordinate the Kisan Movement a process that was already underway through the efforts of N.G Ranga and other Kisan leaders. The culmination was the establishment of the all India Kisan Congress in the Lucknow in April 1936 which later changed its name to All India Kisan Sabha.Swami Sahajanand was elected secretary. The first session was greeted in person by Jawaharlal Nehru.

A Kisan Manifesto was finalized at the All India Kisan Committee session in Bombay and formally presented to the Congress Working Committee to be incorporated into its forthcoming manifesto for the 1937 elections. The Kisan Manifesto considerably influenced the agrarian programme adopted by the congress at its Faizpur session. The formation of Congress ministries in a majority of the provinces in early 1937 marked the beginning of a new phase in the growth of the peasant movement.

The political atmosphere in the country underwent a marked change: increased civil liberties, a new sense of freedom born of the feeling that our own people are in power a heightened sense of expectation that the ministries would bring a pro-people measures- all combine to make the years 1937-39 the high water mar k of the peasant movement. The chief form of mobilization was through the holding of Kisan Conferences or meetings at the Thana, taluqa, district and provincials levels at which peasant demands would be aired and resolutions passed. These conferences would be addressed by local, provincial and All India leaders. During Second World War years the Kisan Sabha continued to play an important role in arranging relief works during Bengal famine of 1943.It also continued its organizational work despite being severally handicapped by its taking the unpopular pro-war stance which alienated it from various sections of the peasantry.

Parth Nath Mukherji has made a study of Naxalbari movement and the peasant revolt in North Bengal in Darjeeling district and the regions are Phansidewa, Naxalbari and Khoribari.There are both tea plantations and paddy cultivation. He analyses the peasant uprising against the background of the communist movement in India. The Communist party of India developed two strands; one which argued that the situation in India was not yet ripe for revolution and the other led by the most articulate group of Siliguri sub division of Darjeeling district under the leadership of Charu Majumdar.Ideological pressures for radicalization of CPI (M) politics were exerted by the Darjeeling District Committee. Even among the radicals there were those who favored participation in the elections while the others proposed to shun the elections and socialize the masses against it. The former held to the primacy of the land problem and recommended mass struggles to solve it.

The Naxalbari peasant movement is related to the Tebhanga Movement of Bengal where the Bengali weavers were exploited. Over a period of time, numerous struggles against such exploitation led to the emergence of Krishak Sabha.But such movements also suffered from various weaknesses.

The weakness of the movement was there were two kinds of leadership. On the one hand there was the urban-based leadership, which claimed superior knowledge and status with regard to the manner in which the movement should be conducted. Among the rural leaders there were the indigenous rural leaders like Kanu Sanyal, Panchang Sarker and urban leaders like Charu Majumdar.When most of the rural leaders were in prison the leadership passed into the hands of the urban leaders who were interested in systemic changes rather than a mere just redistribution of the produce. Charu Majumdar shifted the focus from the narrow economic demands to capture of power. He wanted the annihilation of class enemies, which in effect was indistinguishable from secret assassinations. As a result he drove the movement underground.

Ranga Rao made a study of the Peasant Movement in Telengana based on both secondary sources and fieldwork. He places the communist led peasant movement in the wider context of other social movements, which sprang up in Telengana in the beginning of 20th century. The Telugu Literary Movement introduced ideas of renaissance and was against the Nizam's establishment. Under the influence of Indian National Congress and the Arya Samaj the Telengana elite gave a new direction to the activities of the Andhra Mahasabha in the 1930.They mobilized the public for the abolition of forced labour, untouchability and other social evils, They also demanded equal educational and economic opportunities and equal political representation for the Hindus. According to Narayana Reddy it is not enough if economic conditions are ripe foe such a movement. While similar conditions prevailed in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan it was the added presence of Nizam as a ruler from minority religious group, lack of civil and religious liberties and lack of correct understanding of the socio-economic situation prevailing in Hyderabad state by communists that helped a movement to develop. Ranga Rao adds that it was other structural factors like improvement in the economic and social conditions of the people followed by a period of reversal and oppression that made the peasants, rich and poor take part in the campaign of non cooperation against the Nizam's government under the collective leadership of the Congress, the Communist Parties and the Andhra Mahasabha.Many of these movements have also been changed over time and exist today in some form or the other in some places of India. These movements did not have a solid and unified aim all over India and hence its nature and struggle was also different from region to region.


Backward Castes Movement


1. Self -respect Movement
2. Backward caste mobilization in North India
3. Mahar Movement


Self-respect Movement


The self-respect movement sowed its seed during the Indian freedom struggle. At the earlier stage Backward Class movement meant the non-Brahmin movement. The non -Brahmin movement had two aims

  • Demanding the sanction of more concessions and privileges (which would cause discrimination against the Brahmins) to surpass Brahmins in education and social status.
  • Achieving "Swayam Maryada or self-respect.
This movement formed a part of the many social reforms occurred during that period. Periyar E.V Ramaswami was the leader of this movement. It was a popular movement, which occurred in Tamil Nadu in 1925.Its main aim was to improve upon the socio-economic conditions of the low castes Tamils.

Later it had profound implications. The main objectives of this movement were inculcation and dissemination of knowledge of political education. Right to lead life with dignity and self-respect and do away with the exploitative system based on superstitions and beliefs. Abolition of the evil social practices and protection of women rights. Establishment and maintenance of homes for orphans and widow and opening of educational institutions for them. This movement gained popularity in no time and became a political platform. Ramaswami Naicker founded the Dravida Kazhagam in 1945.In 1949 C.Annadurai founded the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-DMK which completely wiped out the domination of the Brahmins in TamilNadu.The D.K under the leadership of Naicker continue to pursue anti-Brahmanism in social and cultural fields. Thus the aim of the Backward Class Movement at this stage was to limit the Brahmin monopoly in the two fields of education and appointment to government posts. This movement was by no means a mass movement. The opposition to Brahmin dominance did not come from the low and the oppressed castes but from the leaders of the powerful rural dominant castes such as Reddy and Kammas in Andhra,Vokkaligas and Lingayats in Karnataka etc.These were high caste groups with a social position next to the Brahmins. They included not only the Hindus but also the Muslims, Christians and other communities who also suffered from the same social disabilities.

Backward caste mobilization in North India


The backward classes have been deprived of many social, economic, political and religious privileges. These were treated as untouchables and subjected to extreme forms of exploitation. While the presence of structural conditions of relative deprivation provided only the necessary context for the genesis of protest movements, certain external influences provided the sufficient conditions to create an awakening among them. The Christian missionaries were the first group to organize a programme for them. The missionaries not only converted them to different denominations but initiated a broad based programme involving English education and setting up of orphanages and other special welfare programmes. Those of the depressed classes who were converted to Christianity soon developed a different life style from their contemporaries. They received English education and were recruited to various government jobs.


A further impetus was provided by the national movement, which provided an ideology of egalitarianism and supported social movements, which revolted against discrimination of any kind. Then there were the reform movements, which initiated programmes of education and welfare for the backward classes. These movements were against many orthodox brahmanical practices including their attitudes towards the untouchables. Finally British abolished slavery and introduced an egalitarian system of law, liberal education and notions of representative government. All these developments provided a favorable climate for the genesis of social movements with distinct ideologies and leadership among the backward classes. They began to organize themselves in different parts of India establishing new identities based on diverse ideologies. These include claims of higher Varna status through a reinterpretation and recasting of appropriate mythologies of origin. For example several castes like Ahirs in North India,Gopas in Bengal ,Gollas in A.P and Karnataka and Konars in Tamil Nadu claimed descent from Yadav dynasty to which Lord Krishna belonged. The rejection of Brahmanical ideology and culture was another protest movement. The Dravida Kazhagam movement in TamilNadu idealized the Dravidian culture and religion and attacked the Aryan culture and religion.



The Mahar movement


The Mahar movement under the leadership of Ambedkar abandons Hinduism altogether and embraced Buddhism. The Mahars formed an important section of the scheduled castes of Maharashtra (10%) of the population. They served as village watchmen, messengers and removers of cattle carcasses. These services were hereditary and were paid for in kind. They occupied a low position in the caste and occupational hierarchy and as such suffered from many religious, economic, educational and political disabilities. Thus the ideology of the Mahar movement reflects a total rejection of the religion of the caste Hindus, which was identified with hierarchy and inequality. Mahars now belong to a religion that stands for egalitarian values and hence they are superior to the caste Hindus. This is another strategy to gain self-respect and esteem on the one hand and to protest against the religion of the upper castes on the other.

The civil rights ideology based on democracy, motivated the Backward Classes to evolve campaigns to fight for equality in educational, economic and political opportunities. Thus the leaders of the SNDP and the Mahar movement agitated for their basic civil rights. They also incorporated the religious-cultural ideology in this approach in seeking to gain self-respect and honor.


The Dalit Panther movement emerged among the Mahars of Bombay and Pune in 1972.Its spokesmen were Namdeo Dhasal, Raja Dhale and J.V Pawar all eminent literary men. It cashed in on the frustration that the urban youth were experiencing when faced with diverse forms of discrimination against the untouchables and the oppressed. In its ideology class struggle cannot be separated from an anticaste Hindu attitude. Thus the protest ideologies of the Backward Classes movements reveal four organizing principals:

  • Reinterpretation of myths of origin or of one's own religion.
  • Rejection of Hinduism and Aryan religion and culture
  • Civil rights
  • Class conflict

The SNDP movement exemplifies the principle of reinterpretation as a theme of the protest ideology. Sri Narayana Guru Swamy established a set of beliefs, rituals, temples and priests that was parallel to that of the upper castes. The world-view of his reinterpreted Hinduism was both enlightened and simple on the basis of which Izhavas were able to claim a new identity with honour, esteem and self-respect.

Similarly the Ahirs systematically reinterpreted the Yadava myth of origin of their castes in legitimizing their superior status. This was backed by protest against the status that was accorded to them by the dominant groups backed by religion. They not only achieved self-respect and honor but also gained access to the religious goods and services of the twice-born castes that they had long been denied. The new ideology provided the language of protest and aggression against the opposition groups.

New identities are established not only on the basis of a religious-cultural ideology but also on the basis of a secular one with civil rights and class conflict themes. The former when viewed as an attempt to claim equality of status through democratic means is exemplified by many backward classes movements fighting for basic secular rights such as right of admission to schools, right of recruitment to government jobs and right of adult suffrage. These progammes were part of the SNDP and Mahar movements. The leaders of these movements adopted both religious-cultural and civil rights ideology simultaneously in their efforts to attain equality of status with the dominant groups on the ritual and the secular planes.

Among the Backward classes the Dalit panthers adopted the ideology of class conflict and anti caste Hindu feeling. The new identity that emerged based on these two principles enabled the young urban Mahars to attack the upper caste Hindu capitalists. Thus both secular class conflict and religious-cultural principles can be seen as transformations. All these movements arose due to the extreme exploitation of the lower castes by the upper castes and the lower castes were subjected to frequent oppression and exploitation over a period of time.


Attached: Social Movements
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